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Cherry Pop

'Willie Dynamite: Special Edition'
(Roscoe Orman, Diana Sands, Thalmus Rasulala, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1974) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Who is Willie Dynamite? He's the flashiest pimp in New York he drives a personalized purple-and-gold Cadillac and wears some of the most eye-catching outfits ever seen on a cinema screen.

He wants to be number one, but with the police, the D.A., fellow pimps and a tough-talking social worker on his tail, can a man as arrogant and amoral as Willie D avoid a downfall?

Blu-ray Verdict: As all fans of exploitation cinema will know, there were many, many blaxploitation movies released during the 1970s after Melvin van Peebles left an incredibly impression on black audiences with Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song in 1971.

While many are rather enjoyable in a comical way, few works of blaxploitation were actually any good. Tony Award-nominated Broadway director Gilbert Moses' Willie Dynamite is incredibly under-seen, but is one of the genre's most impressive works, shunning the usual hyper-stylised, lightly comic beats in favor of something more serious and dramatic, while also touching on themes such as black identity, racism and police corruption.

New York pimp Willie Dynamite (Roscoe Orman) has built himself a mini-empire, training his girls to work like a production line to maximise profits and keep his many customers happy.

While his clothes are utterly outlandish (there are some of most ridiculous outfits ever seen in the genre here), Willie ain't no lovable scamp like Super Fly (1972), but a real piece of s**t; he regularly threatens his girls with violence, underpays them, and fails to offer any help when they get themselves arrested.

When he's late to turn up to court for his most recent arrival Pashen (Joyce Walker), prostitute-turned-social worker Cora (Diana Sands) takes a particular interest, and becomes intent on rescuing Willie's girls and ending his reign of terror.

For a genre normally so rich in exploitative traits, Willie Dynamite contains no nudity and little violence, earning its adult rating instead for language and drug use.

The lack of sex and action scenes leaves plenty of room for drama and character building, and Willie's journey to discovering his place in society and ultimately redeeming himself is all the more engrossing for it.

Anyone familiar with Sesame Street will be left shocked at the sight of Orman wearing some of the most garish costumes ever committed to celluloid and trying to keep his bitches in check, and it's a very convincing performance.

But it is in fact Diana Sands, who sadly died shortly after filming, who steals the film as the force of nature with a gentle side. Ripe for re- discovery, there's much more to Willie Dynamite than I would have ever expected. Now, bring me some scratch! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by Universal
Original uncompressed 1.0 mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Brand new audio commentary by critic and lecturer Sergio Mims
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring writing on the film by Cullen Gallagher